By W. P. Sissell
Down to the Nub
Many years ago now, as I walked, monitoring the areas under the stands at a football game, yes at South Panola, a young man in the full dress of a U. S. Marine non-com, hailed as he strode toward me with hand out-stretched.
After that hand-shake he hugged me as he said, “Mr. Sissell, now I understand what you, Mr. Roberts and Mr. Hamlin meant. Three months later that young man died trying to save his squad from a blazing helicopter in a land thousands of miles from his Batesville home—Vietnam. He died for us.
This morning, as I entered our “Cardiac Rehab” room Mr. Lee Rowsey hailed me with a question about politics. Lee, too, is a veteran of that Vietnam War. If one listens he can chill your blood with first hand accounts—what about a giant plane dropping skid crates of 105 ammunition when the supply was running low and what about shooting so long that the pile of shells is as high as the parapet? He, too, was an artilleryman and his service has been recent enough that I can sometimes hear the, one time, 1st Sergeant Rowsey when he talks.
Yesterday morning, it seems, a gentleman in a doctor’s waiting room accosted him about politics. When he informed that gentleman (I suppose) that he was certainly going to vote for the only person in the race that knew about protecting our country—the former prisoner of war, Senator McCain, along with the fact that he grew up living around a McCain out on “Rowsey’s Ridge.” The man came at him with, “What have those Iraqis done to us?” Lee immediately responded, “Have you ever heard of 9-11?”
Talk to a Veteran—Especially VFW
Once a month I sit around a table with friends, all veterans of one or another of combats since or during WW II. Ask any of that group whether or not they want a war to be fought here—again, remember 9-11. I doubt if you would get one yes. One of my high school classmates was killed in action before we graduated. My first roommate at Mississippi State was wounded while serving in France.
We took the luck of the draw. We trained and went where we were sent. When I look at my two youngest grandsons (they’re about my age when I went into the service) I pray that they are never called. We did what we thought we had to do. We’ve been called the greatest generation—that could have been the scaredest generation. I had the privilege of meeting one of the men who captured the Reamagen Bridge ten years after it happened. He had gray splotches in his black hair.
My brother-in-law, after daylight, asked his fellow guard sitting in the trench on the beach of Anzio, Italy, for a light. When he touched him on the shoulder the man fell over—dead—killed there during the night beside him. Another long time friend survived three island invasions in the South Pacific—just an “ole country plow boy from Tennessee.” When he got his call to become a driver for Memphis Transit I think that he left his mule standing hitched in the cotton patch still hooked to the double shovel.
I think most will agree with Lee Rowsey—we need a president who knows what it will mean to have a President who knows about the terrible wastage of war.
We’ve dodged some tough weather but February has just come. (When we got to Camp Lucky Strike, France, the snow was about 14 inches deep.) It’s usually close to our toughest month, weather wise. Do have a good week and do drive carefully.
You can reach me most of the time at 23541 Highway 6, Batesville, MS 38606, email@example.com, or 662-563-9879.